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Camel Controversy: A New PC Low



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The devotees of America’s thriving grievance industry must spend all day concocting brand-new targets for their rage. Don’t these people have anything better to do?

The reductio reached ad absurdum last week after administrators at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota scratched a “Hump DAAAAAAY” party designed to buoy the spirits of students preparing for finals. The event would have included a cameo by a live camel, with which students could take photos. Some students might have found the occasion at least slightly educational. Camels, after all, are not native to the American Great Lakes region.

“We had done a program in December where we brought a reindeer to campus for the holiday time, and we did pictures and everything like that,” Residence Life director Aaron Macke told TommieMedia, the university’s news website. “We had over 300 students attend — and I think that may have inspired the idea. You know, we have petting zoos that come to campus. We have therapy pets that come to campus around finals time for stress relief.”

The party also seemed to build on a hilarious Geico commercial in which a camel saunters through an office, trying to get his human colleagues to share his excitement about the day of the week.

“Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike,” the dromedary says insistently to one of his apparent co-workers. “What day is it, Mike?” The two-humped mammal is beyond thrilled that it’s hump day, a slang term for Wednesday. (After passing that peak, it’s all downhill to the weekend.)

Rather than laugh and enjoy this late-semester festivity, campus killjoys mounted a Facebook campaign called “Protest Hump DAAAAAAY!” They claimed that the gathering would be insensitive to Middle Easterners and promote “orientalism.” As for the camel, these collegians argued that it might make students from that area uncomfortable.

University officials shot their white banner up the flagpole more quickly than a North Korean rocket rising over the Sea of Japan.

“This program is dividing people and would make for an uncomfortable and possibly unsafe environment for everyone attending or providing the program,” Residence Hall Association president Lindsay Goodwin said in a Facebook post, as the Washington Times reported. “As a result, RHA has decided to cancel the event.”

The notion that Middle Easterners are too fragile, thin-skinned, or insecure to survive the mere presence of a visiting camel is rather racist. Imagine cancelling an on-campus screening of a Porky Pig cartoon because Jewish students might be offended. Such an action would say more about the canceller’s opinion of Jews than about the Jews themselves.

Beyond that, the idea that Middle Easterners would be bothered by a dromedary drop-by reveals stunning ignorance of camels’ role in that part of the world. They are respected as beasts of burden, companions through scorching desert journeys, and even as sources of sustenance.

During my visit last June to the Pyramids at Giza just outside Cairo, I was fortunate to meet some Egyptians who relaxed near those stunning Pharaonic wonders. In a perfectly tranquil scene, they reclined beneath a blistering sun, right beside their camels. Visitors who asked could pose with their camels in exchange for tips, as I did. You can see the photo below (photo credit: Mohamed Fawzy):

So what? Some poor Egyptians let a pyramid-hopping Gringo sit atop their camel, as do other tourists.

Far beyond places that cater to Americans and other interlopers, however, camels keep popping up.

This has been so for centuries, as confirmed by a piece of Iranian art called Camel and Keeper. This piece is in the Smithsonian’s Sackler Collection and dates back to 1556 A.D.

Produced in the United Arab Emirates, Al-nassma is a brand of chocolate made from camel’s milk. Its attractive packaging features — wait for it — a camel. Presumably those behind this product do not expect the camel on its label to slash its pan-Arabian sales.

Camelicious, also from the UAE, is a brand of camel’s milk. Its large bottles are decorated with — what else? — a camel. Camelicious bottles feature English and Arabic writing. The latter confirms that Middle Easterners are cool with camels. Besides, how many Americans are adventurous enough to drink camel’s milk? (In fact, given the growing concerns over the deadly MERS virus, health officials warn against drinking unpasteurized camel’s milk, just in case readers here are so tempted.)

Thuwal Gifts in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, sells a variety of items to Muslims who attend the Islamic hajj or pilgrimage. Among other mementos, Thuwal offers a refrigerator magnet bearing the image of — guess what? — a camel! Since Mecca’s religious segregationism forbids non-Muslims from even entering the city, Thuwal sells these tchotchkes — by definition — exclusively to Muslims. The owners of Thuwal Gifts probably know their audience and understand that they can handle seeing a camel — even on a fridge magnet.

This simple knowledge evidently escaped the University of St. Thomas’ p.c. extremists. What this school desperately needs — as do others across America — is adult supervision. A grown up in the administration should have confronted these grumpy brats and said:

“Camels offend no one, especially not Middle Easterners. That area’s men and women are spooked by camels about as much as kangaroos bother the Australians and pandas menace the Chinese. Next Canada Day, we will not cover our maple trees in deference to our Canadian students. We are confident that they can cope with those leaves.”

“Meanwhile, our Hump DAAAAAAY party rides on. Students are invited to step away from their books for a few minutes, enjoy some free refreshments, greet other scholars and faculty, and even snap photos with the gentle, majestic camel that will visit us for this occasion.”

“But if all of this is just too much for any student’s delicate sensibilities, try this: Stay in the library, plant your nose in your books, and keep studying for finals.”



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